Proud to be an Indiblogger

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Cheng & I

It was the year 1973 and I was doing my Form 5. My Dad had arranged for me to take tuition for Mathematics as I was kind of weak in the subject. For a while, I was attending and all was ok. Then I got bored and on certain days, I played truant.

It was during one of those days when I had skipped tuition that I met Cheng at the Butterworth beach at about 7.30 in the evening. This was the beginning of my smoking days and I had gone by the beach area where it was dark and lonely with only courting couples in their cars for company. Cheng was there too. His father runs a sundry shop near my house and I had seen him quite often whenever I went over to buy something but we never got to strike a conversation as he was always busy in the shop. So when I met him tonight, he greeted me as I formally introduced myself. He was doing his Form 5 too but in Penang Island while I was on the mainland. I got to know him a fair bit more but what sealed the relationship was when I noticed that he smoked too. That made 2 of us. While I was just learning the ropes, so to speak, I noticed that he was seasoned. From then on, we met up often and went on to become close buddies. Every time he had some errands to run, he would always pick me up as my house was situated in his “drive path”. In fact during my sister’s wedding that year, he volunteered to drive and came with his family car and spent the entire time with us. The difference in ethnicity didn’t divide us. Far from it, in fact it was not a factor at all in the 70s. Together we joined the Bahai centre and used to attend prayer sessions. And those days, I would always claim that I was a Christian. I don’t know why but I never said that I was a Hindu. It was probably because I had so many Christian friends then…Raymond…. Andrew….. Victor ….. Ruban…..and many more. In fact, I had a Christian name too. I used to call myself John. That was until my sister pointed out one day that we had had a dog named ‘John’ in the house when I was a kid. Then I dropped it and changed my name to Steven for a while.

In this Bahai group, we would sometimes visit fellow Bahais in neighbouring towns. I remember those days when I mentioned that I was a Christian to anyone, their first reaction would be “ Ohhh…….so which church do you go to? And my standard answer had always been “There’s one near my school”. It was only much later that I learnt that the answer should have been either “Roman Catholic” or “Protestant” or one of those! Until today when I think of it, I feel stupid! Wonder what would have run through their minds!

Cheng featured prominently in my life then. He loved Hindi movies and Hindi songs. There had been many occasions when we went for movies together. In fact, I went for Bombay to Goa, my first Amitabh movie with him. His performance was impressive to say the least. Throughout the movie I was wondering who this new hero was as until then it had been Rajesh Khanna who was creating the waves. We now know how all that changed after Amitabh entered the movie scene.

Once he showed me a book titled ‘Hindi in 30 days’ that he was reading. I’m not sure if he made any gains by reading it but later in life after I had started working in KL, he went to Rajasthan in India to pursue a course in Agriculture.

I last met him in 1985 when he returned to Butterworth for a short break. He was working as a Planter in some plantation in Sabah then. We spent quite some time together to the extent that once when I went to visit him, I heard his mum telling him in Hokkien not to follow me out if I asked him to, while in the next breath, greeting me in Malay. I marveled at the level of hypocrisy that some people have but in retrospect, it was perhaps the family had wanted to spend more time with him and I happen to be depriving them of it. It was during this time that technology gradually advanced many fold……unnoticed (to me at least)! I realized one day a few months ago that the world has actually shrunk and distance was not a barrier anymore in communication. With that in mind, my wife and I made a trip to the old sundry shop in Butterworth where Cheng’s parents lived with the hope that I can revive the channels of communications with him. I was pleasantly surprised when his brother, mum and his dad could still recognize me as they welcomed me by my home name (Ravi). They were extremely delighted to see me. After a short tete-a-tete, I got Cheng’s phone number in Sabah and left, assuring them that I will drop in again.

I spoke to Cheng last night and he was indeed surprised to hear my voice. We spoke a lot of our present as well as our old times. I realize that a lot of water has flowed under the bridge since we last met but it is never too late to revive the relationship. He had been a part of my life at a certain point in time and it had been impactful. I could very nearly “smell” his love and sincerity when he started enquiring of my family. He has promised to visit his parents during the next Chinese New Year. I am looking forward to catching up with this dear friend of mine whom I have not seen for 24 years!

(FYI, in spite of playing truant, it may interest you to note that I still managed a strong credit in my Maths).

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Singh is King (continued)

(Click on image for enlarged view).
This is the picture taken with Murali during the trip to PD. Managed to retrieve it from an old album of mine. I’m seated in back row, third from left (or third from right, whichever you prefer). Murali is the one seated in front of me in blue T shirt wearing watch on right hand. The others in the picture are all his friends but I have no clue if he kept in touch with them.

I recently recalled an incident that took place in the 70s. My classmate Jalil was a Police Inspector whom Murali had also met before. One day Jalil had gone to Brickfields to do some chores when from a distance, Murali had seen him parking his car. He approached Jalil and had struck up a conversation in full view of his friends, not so much as to build on the relationship with Jalil but more to impress his friends that he had police connections since Jalil was on duty and in full uniform on that day. However the plot backfired! Jalil saw through his intentions when he noticed his friends watching him and without warning, quickly handcuffed him to the steering wheel and left him there while he went about his chores returning only after a good half an hour or so. It was a real embarrassment for Murali that he had least expected. Later that weekend when Jalil dropped by at Happy Mansions and related the incident to us, we all had a good laugh.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy Birthday Praveena

No…this is not my grand-daughter Kalavitha although she looks very much like her. This is a picture of my daughter as a child. I am reproducing it here because today happens to be Ms. Big Eyes’ 27th birthday and as much as I love my grand-daughter, I love my daughter too.

Happy Birthday Praveena!

Publicity & Fame

(Picture shows Mr. Bhagwan Das (left) handing me the track-suits).

It is always nice to be ‘featured’ in a local daily or to appear on TV….for the right reasons of course You get a sense of pride especially when you are young and just about coming into the real world. It creates a false sense of achievement and you tend to believe that the whole world would have seen it…..and it kind of makes you feel all the more so important…… least that’s what it did to me. I had often been full of admiration and envy when I used to see my friend Imbaraj being featured ever so often in the papers but then he was a Penang State badminton player and back in the early 70s, he was the player to watch, so said a leading English daily. He earned those accolades and rightly deserved to be featured. But I wasn’t much of a sports person so I couldn’t even imagine being focused on for such reasons, or for any other reason whatsoever for that matter.

So in 1982, when my photograph appeared for the very first time in the Malay Mail, pictured receiving some goodies on behalf of my employers, from the proprietor of Ashrock Sportswear for the Malay Mail Big Walk, I was ecstatic. I remember getting hold of about 5 or 6 copies of the newspapers that day just so that I can cut out the article and post it to my nephews and niece back north and to show my family and friends, just in case they missed it. I couldn’t afford to allow them to miss it as it was not often that your picture gets to appear in the newspapers. The joy lasted a long time.

The other occasion was when I appeared together with Datuk Mahalingam (now Tan Sri) on National TV and that too, on primetime news. And it was big news back in Kulim where I lived then. As a Deputy Minister, Datuk Mahalingam was visiting the factory that I worked in and I was tasked with showing him around the plant. The next evening, the snippet appeared in the news segment. For the next couple of days, I remember being inundated with calls to the house as well as to the office, from friends and relatives alike asking if it was indeed me with the Minister as if it was the greatest thing that could happen to a person. But this was way back in 1993… a God forsaken laid back town up-country in a suburban part of under developed Kedah that I used to call home but from where I have since vacated and have no regrets for having done so, except for some fond memories of my childhood since ironically it was here, amidst the remoteness that I was born!

So you cannot really blame me for craving for such publicity, can you?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Singh is King!

This photograph of Murali and I was taken on 27th November 2009 during Rashna’s wedding. Attired in full Punjabi 'regalia', I was just flattering him that he looked very much like a typical Punjabi when another fellow Punjabi couple walked in and greeted him, enquiring in Punjabi on the whereabouts of the wedding ceremony. Murali had to apologize that he was not one of them but that he was from the groom’s side. Taken aback and probably feeling slightly embarrassed, they then spoke in English and we guided them in to the adjoining hall where the ceremony was taking place.

Murali and I go back a long way. I have known him since I was about 18. Being Imbaraj’s cousin, it was easier to break the ice. When I was working in KL in the
70’s, he was still studying at FIT and used to call himself Don Raj, the “Don” adopted perhaps from the Globe Silk Store’s house brand as he was fond of wearing their clothes. It was one of the more stylish brands those days that didn’t leave a hole in your pocket. Word has it that on one occasion his father had gone to his college looking for him but when he asked around, no one seemed to know him until some college-mates advised his father to ask for “Don Raj” to make any headway! Boy…….! Was he furious!

Sometimes on weekends he’d drop by at Happy Mansions in Section 17 where I stayed with Sargu. And when he does, we used to chat for hours on end. I can still remember one particular Saturday afternoon when I had just returned from work and I noticed that he appeared troubled. He explained that he had been tasked with chartering a bus for a trip to PD that weekend with his school friends but in spite of trying everywhere, he had been unsuccessful. He appeared totally lost not knowing what to do next. I immediately swung into action and together, we approached a school bus driver from the nearby flats who was willing to oblige, albeit not before some tedious and tactical negotiations. What a relieve it was for him. So the next morning I joined in the trip together with the rest of his college-mates. And we had some good fun.

Later in life, in 1988 when I took up appointment in Alor Setar, he was kind enough to offer me board and lodging at no cost at all, allowing me the exclusive use of an air-conditioned room with attached bathroom. Truly speaking, it was luxury living then, so to speak. An incident I cannot forget was when on one occasion, he had forgotten to take his house keys when he went out and I had slept off by 10 that night. When he returned close to midnight, he approached the window to my room and called out my name. Unable to recognize his voice in my half dazed state, I asked him who it was and he answered “Thief! Thief! I opened the door for him and we had a good laugh.

There was another instance when I was forced to drive back all the way from Gurun to Alor Setar with a flat tyre. I had had a puncture on my right rear tyre when I passed the toll in Gurun. No sooner had I replaced with my spare tyre to continue my journey when to my utter disbelief, the spare went flat too. My choice was either to wait for a tow-truck or to continue driving with a flat tyre. I decided on the latter. By the time I reached my Taman in Alor Setar where I stayed, the rubber from the tyre had all been shredded and had fallen off and I was driving on just the rim; the grinding noise was so loud that the neighbours' children actually came out of their houses curious to find the source. But before I woke up the next morning, Murali had already replaced the tyre. That's how efficient he is when it comes to obliging friends.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Passage of Time

These are pictures taken with my brother Ashok who lives in Butterworth. One was taken in November 1976 while the other was in October 2009, 33 years later. I wouldn't refer to the changes in our features as transformation....more so they are the damages caused to the human body due to the realities of life as we traversed through the passage of time! (Notice the bell-bottoms. It was the fashion of the day then. You could even attach stilts to your shoes to appear taller and no one would have noticed).

As we pass through this life
At an early stage we often wonder
If the world will be what
We perceive it to be

As we grow older
We change those perceptions
But the world stays
As true as it ought to be

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

When time stood still....!

It was the year 2003 and I had been working in KL for about 2 years then. I had left my family behind in Ipoh though preferring to travel back to be with them every weekend. And I always took the bus back as it was too tiring to drive. I didn’t like the fast paced life in KL and didn’t want my family to endure the challenges that came with living life on the fast lane in the city. Ipoh was a total contrast compared to KL, with idyllic settings and a place where you dictate the pace of events. I looked forward to each weekend to spend with my family and always went back after a good rest feeling rejuvenated. I dreaded every moment that I had to be in KL feeling lonely and ……..depressed even. But I was left without much of a choice as I had to fend for me and my family and the job paid well, though I wouldn’t say much about the working conditions then. For a start I was branded anti-establishment for championing employee rights. Actually I wasn’t…..I was just ensuring that employees’ were not bullied for their ignorance which was rampant in the plant. My employers were also violating local statutes at every turn and I took it upon myself to right the wrongs regardless of the dip in my popularity with the management. I was here for a purpose and surely not for any popularity contest. When I decided to travel the path of righteousness, I threw caution to the wind with little regard to consequences or personal glory. But I must admit, it was indeed stressful. Added to my dilemma was having to juggle my life shuttling between Ipoh and KL. (It may be comforting to note that I have since succeeded in most of my initiatives).

It was on the 13th of May 2003 that the stress took a nasty toll on my health. I suffered my first heart attack and was warded at Ipoh Specialist where I got the angioplasty done. I remained warded for about 5 more days before being discharged with a month of medical leave. Frankly, it was a good break and a much deserved one at that. After I returned to work, I stayed with my sister in Klang for a while before returning to my rented apartment near my workplace. And the boredom returned……..!

One Saturday afternoon not long after I had returned to work, I was as usual at Pudu Raya waiting to catch the Express bus to Ipoh. I had felt alright the whole time and didn’t suspect anything amiss about me. I reached the platform and was waiting at the place where the bus was supposed to arrive. All of a sudden I felt dizzy and I could see the world spinning around me. Before I could find something to hold on to, I fell flat on my back and took a hard knock to my head in the process! I must have remained there for a good minute or two before 2 good Samaritans splashed cold water on my face and helped me up. I was still in a state of daze as they pulled me up and made me sit up along the pavement. After I regained consciousness and my composure, I continued with my journey back home.

I can only remember the 2 guys’ faces vaguely now as soon after they made me comfortable they disappeared in the maddening Saturday afternoon crowd perhaps to catch their own transport back to their home-state. But what I do know is that one of them was a Malay gentleman while the other was an Indian, both were in their late 20s or early 30s. From the innermost depths of my heart, thank you gentleman wherever you may be!

I was later to learn that the cause of my blackout was that at that precise moment, for some strange reason, my heart had actually stopped beating! But the impact of the fall had helped to revive the heartbeat and resuscitate me. God works in mysterious way…..? Indeed He does!

I have not suffered any more of such bouts after that one freakish incident…………… and I hope it stays that way for some time to come.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Catching up.......!

(From left to right: Sethu, Aravind, Ragu & Jeevan)

Jeevan had been the catalyst for this whole reunion thingy. He had been in the US since the 90s and had returned after a lapse of 12 years. I suppose he had been the live wire among his cousins for them to organize this gathering. He was in the same age group as my nephews but I had the opportunity to play host to him once or twice in the early 90s when I was in Kulim and he would drop by often to visit my nephew. I had wanted to visit him for the past 2 weeks but somehow I just couldn’t find the time. I had been told that he was on a short visit but when I heard that he was due to return the next morning, I realized how fast time flies. It was an anti-climax of sorts when he came up to greet me; I couldn’t quite place him. For one, he spotted the bald look now and he has grown taller too with a much more robust figure then 20 years ago. I felt a little embarrassed at not being able to recognize him initially. We spoke of his younger days and his jaunts for a while.

His uncle Ragu who had recently returned from Australia that he now calls home, was also there. I’m not too sure what the trick is but he looks exactly how he was the last time I saw him in 1982. Could it be the not so punishing climate there…….I wonder? Surprisingly, he doesn’t appear to have aged one bit. Having lived down under for such a long time, I would have expected him to speak with the now all too familiar Aussie slang but no……he doesn’t have that either. Understandably, his kids speak that way having been raised in the foreign land for most of their lives but not him. He is still as modest as he was when he lived here and has not adopted any of those objectionable and sometimes even annoying traits or characteristics whatsoever. What a relieve! We spoke at length of our present and even had time to catch up with some of our past, promising to meet up again sometime soon.

Sethu was the other person I caught up with during the party. No…he is not from overseas. He lives in KL and we have known each other since I was 14. I tried many a time to meet up with him but somehow we couldn’t. On each of the occasions when I tried on almost all my visits to JB where he was working in the 90s, he had been busy and unable to make it. Being 3 years older to me, I learnt a lot about the birds and the bees during my transition to adulthood. He just about knew of all those things and I used to hang around with him often, once personally becoming a witness to his exploits or escapade. But we owe no one any apology as we were young then and ………….being young I suppose entitled us to be experimental. How else are we to learn or for that matter even grow, in the truest sense of the word? It had been 28 years since I last met him. He had lost much of his boyish looks and now projects an intellectual appearance with gold-rimmed glasses to match. We caught up with some old stories over a couple of pegs. Although the session was tempting, I couldn’t stay longer and left by 11 that night as I was working the next morning.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Only Family Photo

On the left in order of height are Praba (eldest brother), Ashok (second), and me. On the right are Susilah (eldest sister), Sumathi (second) and Vanaja (third). Parents are seated. Dad (Velayuthum s/o Unneroo) is 1st generation Keralite but Mum (Leela d/o Kunjambu) was born here in then Malaya, making her 2nd generation. Her parents were from India though.

This family photograph was taken circa 1959 when I was about 2 years old. It’s the only one taken with my whole family. Fate and circumstances would dictate events from then on to ensure that we never get to take another group photograph together with the whole family again……. ever! I managed to retrieve what’s probably the last remaining copy from my sister Sumathi in Klang when I visited her over the weekend. It is being posted here for the benefit of my future generations who might be interested in unearthing their ancestral roots......that is, if the world doesn't end on 21-12-2012!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Our Paths Crossed...!

It was the CNY holidays in 1980 and I had planned an outing with Imbaraj and Shareen, my new friend. Shareen came into my life in the first week that I got transferred to Seremban when I was attached to Rothmans. She was introduced to me by another friend whom I had also just befriended. They worked in United Oriental Assurance that was located just above Pearls Restaurant along Birch Road that I used to frequent for my regular pints. I remember we hit it off from our first meeting and soon after she had asked if I could chaperone her to her office dinner that weekend in KL to which I readily agreed. We became close friends from then on. It was unfortunate that I had to make it clear that there were to be no strings attached in the relationship as I was already committed to my girlfriend from Ipoh then (now my wife). It was a perfect arrangement for us as being a Punjabi, it would have been difficult to make any headway although in retrospect, I realise I later went on to be well received by her family as well. She was an interesting character and being a good conversationalist, she made an excellent companion to me since I socialized on most evenings. Petite and pretty, she could get along well with all my friends and would often join me during my drinking sprees, soon becoming my drinking partner as well. Although she drank and smoked, she always carried herself with grace and etiquette. The Bhais in town would always stare whenever they saw us together but I couldn’t care less for them and was never at anytime intimidated.

Back to the main story, my boss had other plans. He insisted that the non-Chinese staff had to continue working to help service outlets as stocks were expected to be depleted during the long CNY holidays that fell just before a weekend. I was fuming when I heard this as I had already made plans to go on a holiday. Back then, I was a bit rebellious and kind of anti-management most of the time, especially when certain decisions didn’t favour me. Realising the hopelessness of the situation, I went about working around it for a solution and eventually got one of my distributor’s Malay salesman to cancel his leave and stand in for me to do my tidings during the shut-down. With that, Imbaraj, Shareen and I went off to Cameron Highlands for a 2 night 3 day trip.

Leaving Seremban early on the 1st day, we reached Camerons by lunch and checked into the Rose Garden Hotel. It was a decent 3 star hotel where I had often stayed when I was based at Ipoh previously. Most of the time that we stayed there was spent either chatting, playing tennis, swimming in a small waterfall deep inside the jungle or just drinking away in the room while playing cards. The weather was extremely cold then unlike how it is these days. It was fun….just the 3 of us. After having a good time, we left Camerons on the 3rd day making our way down the winding road to Tapah from where instead of heading back South, we decided to drive to Ipoh to visit my future in-laws who lived there. It had been some time since I last met them and I was eager to see my girl-friend anyway, even if only for a while. The traffic from the opposite direction was heavy with the holiday crowd returning after the long CNY break. I had hardly travelled about 1 km after turning towards Ipoh from the junction of the Camerons road when I noticed what looked like my boss’ car on the opposite direction heading back towards KL. By the time I got a closer look, it was too late! It was indeed my Area Manager who recognized me at once as we were driving branded cars then with mine having the Rothmans insignia all over. At that exact moment, my heart sank as I was supposed to be working on that day back in Seremban. Pretending that everything was normal, I just waved at him nonchalantly and continued my journey. But deep within me, I knew the trouble I had got into! On the way to Ipoh we stopped by at Malim Nawar to pick up Regu, another relative of mine. Regu was related to me after my sister married into his family. I was about 12 when I first met him and since we fell within the same age bracket, we became good friends.

My in-laws were of course happy to see us; and so was my girlfriend. After spending about an hour or so, we bid them farewell and adjourned to a nearby pub for our regular shots. Half way through our session, we realized that Regu had been competing with Shareen with the beers little realizing that she actually drank like a goldfish and could still hold her drinks! But it was a little too late when we realized it….Regu was already on the brink of intoxication!. It was about 11pm then and our plans was to drive back the same night as I had to return to work the next day, since my boss had already seen me earlier in the day. Imbaraj and Shareen however were still on leave though. Not knowing what to do, we decided that we will send Regu back to Malim Nawar on our way back. These were the days when we didn’t have the Plus highway and had to make do with the old trunk road.

Upon reaching his house, we noticed that everyone had already slept. Regu was by now completely knocked out! Assessing the situation, I carried him and put him over my shoulders and knocked on the door. I felt a lot of guilt doing this but I had no choice at that moment as I had to return back. His brother opened the door expressing shock and outrage seeing him in a drunken stupor. I carried him inside and placed him on the couch, apologetically explaining that he had had a bit too much to drink………. and hurriedly left the place.

I drove all the way reaching Seremban at about 3 or 4am, sleeping only for the next 3 hours or so after that before getting up to report to work. At about 10am that morning, a warning letter from my boss came through the telex machine for "dereliction of duties".

Since then, Imbaraj and I continued to keep in touch but Regu migrated to New Zealand sometime in the early 80s from where I later learnt that he moved to Australia where he has since settled down. I received a call from him last week saying that he was down in Malaysia visiting his folks. We re-lived some of the moments that we spent together in our younger days promising to meet up sometime soon. I am excited and looking forward to seeing him again after all these years.... I wonder what has changed....!

As for Shareen, after I got married in 1981, she went on to continue her tertiary education and soon after, settled down with one of her college heart-throb. She is now a full fledged lawyer and lives with her husband and son in Subang Jaya…….but that was in 1998 when I last bumped into her. Our paths have not crossed after that meeting and I have lost all forms of contact with this dear friend of mine.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Stage experience

The 1st time I went up on stage was when I was 13. It was a school concert in St. Patricks, Kulim and I went up to render a Hindi number from the movie Humraaz. My classmates liked it and I felt thrilled after that……and proud too. I realized that I liked being in the lime-light and was not afraid of crowds. When I was 14, I won the school elocution contest, beating even the 5th Formers. I represented the school debating team as their 1st Speaker while still in Form 3. Then I moved to BM High School where the Debating Society was not active. I tried reviving it by speaking to the seniors but no one showed any interest. They just held regular meetings with little follow up. We only had inter-class debates and I was placed as the 3rd Speaker. The famous sixth former MPL Vengadasalam used to be the 1st. Thereafter I was selected to represent the class once while doing my Form 6 in JB.

I realised that I had a penchant for such pursuits......a kind of a passion even. I thrived in such matters. I was not loud but controlled and I knew exactly when to pause and when to thunder. Breathing techniques helped me do that. And the crowd loved it. Their constant applause sometimes didn’t give me enough time to present my whole text. The times I checked back with the judges to see how I scored, I found that I was always the highest scorer in style and delivery. All these public speaking helped me in my career. I remember when I was in Rothmans I was asked to give an impromptu speech in front of all the trainees in my batch as well as the sales force…about 200 of them. And my bosses were impressed. They admitted that they had underestimated me. Another time was when I was in NST and it was my turn to do a presentation in front of the whole marketing team. Once again I did extremely well. From then on, I was ‘noticed’ by the top guns, so to speak.

There was an incident once in Ipoh when I was with RCI, a manufacturer of white cement. The company was bought over by a Danish firm and as the HR Manager, I was appointed as the MC during the signing ceremony. My new bosses had actually thought that I was an external professional. The new Chairman of the company approached me later and congratulated me for a job well done. During dinner that night, I was quietly piling my plate with some bites, intending to sneak away to some obscure corner to enjoy my beers when the same Chairman sought me out and made sure I sat beside him throughout the night. The GM (Chinaman), with whom I had had a fallout then, was not too happy about it. I further rubbed it in by engaging the Chairman in a lengthy conversation, completely sidelining the GM in the process. I was really elated to see the reaction on his face…….it made my day.

While working in Kedah, I used to organize their annual dinners and as usual I was the MC. I remember once when I organized the whole function for the 1200 employees single handedly! The MD was all praise for a job well done as we had 100 % attendance, excluding gate-crashing by ex-employees. What I had done was unconventional. It was a habit of these multinationals in Kulim to hold their annual dinners at some posh hotel in Penang. They would then ferry their workers to the venue and return after the function late at night. But the next day would be a working day. So usually many employees kept away from attending resulting in only about 60% attendance. When I took over, I changed all that, preferring to do it right adjacent to the factory itself where we had a large piece of empty land. I transformed the whole place into a carnival atmosphere. Leveled the ground and put up a large tent to sit 1200 people. I lit up the whole area and put up a huge stage. I engaged 2 live bands; one to play English and Malay numbers and the other for Tamil and Hindi selection. It went well with the crowd. And I had also slotted in employee performance ……..singing, dancing etc. The crowd just loved it. At the end of the day, I saved about 50 % of the cost as compared to previous years. For my efforts, I was selected as the Best Employee of the year, earning a promotion along the way.

In spite of all these experience behind me, I still have butterflies in my stomach before I take to the stage. I am not sure of the others but I still feel a little nervous before I step onto the stage. No one notices it as outwardly I strike a confident pose. But once I start, then I’m in control. Thereafter the feeling just wanes away. So it was no different when I addressed the crowd last Saturday during Rashnaraj’s (Sargu’s son) wedding dinner. It was a massive crowd and the drinks were free flowing. I volunteered the arduous task of subduing them and bringing them to focus in the 3 or 4 minutes of my opening address before I hand over the mike to Theishini (Imbaraj’s daughter). And from the accolades that I received after I stepped down, especially from Dato Kanda who is generally a man of few words, I realize I must have done fairly well. Even my wife and kids couldn't hide their approval over my performance. This was also Theishini’s debut exposure in front of such a huge crowd but she did well. I’m quite certain that she would have had butterflies in her stomach too before taking the mike. No one noticed though……as she bottled up all signs of stage fright and went about her job like a pro.